Three former health ministers have called on the government to provide immediate compensation to victims of the contaminated blood scandal.
The head of the Contaminated Blood Inquiry on Friday called for “immediate” payment from victims and their families after recommending the amount of preliminary compensation payments. Sir Brian Langstaff said infected people and those left behind should receive “payments of not less than £100,000”.
Des Collins, a senior partner at Collins Solicitors who represents some of the victims, said he would step up pressure on the Government on Monday after Boris Johnson was asked to pay more of the interim amounts to those affected immediately and before they die. The immediate payment recommendation was backed by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Matt Hancock and Andy Burnham.
At least 2,400 people died after contracting HIV or hepatitis C in the 1970s and 1980s because they received infected blood from the NHS, and up to 30,000 people became seriously ill. The scandal has been called the worst treatment disaster in NHS history.
An open letter to the Prime Minister signed this month by organizations including the Haemophilia Society and the Terrence Higgins Trust said 419 people had died between July 2017, when the inquiry was announced, and February this year. It has been reported that one infected person dies every four days.
Ros Cooper, who contracted hepatitis C as a child after being given infected blood products, called the news of the interim recommendation an “extraordinary development.” Cooper told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it’s a testament to how much has been uncovered which would support this inquiry.”
Cooper, who started taking blood clotting factor products when she was less than six months old, said infection with hepatitis C left her unable to work. “It’s been the defining factor in my life since I found out I had it as a teenager,” Cooper said. She said she suffered from mental health issues and fatigue: “The mental side effects of being told you’re going to die in your 20s were huge.”
She added that there had been “amplified” “struggling ever since to try and get some degree of recognition of justice from successive governments.”
Hunt echoed Collins, demanding that payments to all victims and survivors be made “immediately.” Appearing on the Today programme, he urged ministers to act before more victims died.
“I would just urge ministers to recognize that time is of the essence and to wait just a few months for, for example, the leadership campaign to be completed and for the new prime minister to make the decision means there are a few more People probably died,” he said.
“We should do it immediately. We’ve waited far too long. Successive governments that I have been a part of have not acted as quickly as they should have and we must recognize that as a terrible, terrible injustice.”
Hancock said the government has a “moral obligation” to compensate victims of the scandal and said he was “confident” that was the case. Burnham, a former health secretary and now mayor of Greater Manchester, said there could be a manslaughter case.
The Cabinet Office said on Saturday it would act on compensation recommendations “with the utmost urgency” and that a copy of the inquiry’s report would be presented to MPs “as soon as Parliament meets again” – in September.
A spokesman said: “The Government is grateful to Sir Brian Langstaff for his interim report on interim compensation for victims of infected blood.
“We recognize how important this will be for infected and affected people across the UK and can confirm that the Government are reviewing Sir Brian’s report and Sir Robert Francis QC’s recommendations with the utmost urgency and are responding as quickly as possible becomes. A copy of the report will be placed in the House when Parliament reconvenes.”